5-22-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Hope you're enjoying your Friday. I'm writing from the home offices today because I managed to wrangle a couple of days off and turned Memorial Day weekend in to a mini-vacation!

But it's no vacation from you, my loyal readers. Well, mostly not anyway. The plans as currently constituted call for the enjoyment of some day baseball on Monday. So it's doubtful I'll have anything for you then. But an RGC based on that game is entirely a possibility, so it's not a total loss for you! Stay tuned!

Today it's time for your weekly dose of DFTU. Lots to talk about, so off we go...

"To err is human; to forgive, infrequent."
- Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960), American columnist

Ahhh, sarcasm. My old friend. All the same, I hope you'll forgive me taking the Monday holiday off! I'll make it up to you, I swear!

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It's that time once again. You've yearned for it. You've had the itch and been unable to scratch it. (Who have you been hanging around anyway?!) But now it's here. It's time for...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update:

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 19-23, in 3rd place in the AL Central and 5.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

Here was my quote from last week: "The Yanks have owned the Twins of late, so this series makes me nervous."

If you didn't understand what I meant then, do you understand it now?

Four games in New York turned into 4 losses, with 3 of them being of the "walk-off" variety for the Bombers; two of those in extra innings.

I have no idea why traveling to Gotham does such a mind-job on the Twins, but it clearly does. And unfortunately, the hangover lasted through the first two games in Chicago. The Twins ended up 1-6 on their road trip, and are clearly glad to be back in the friendly confines of the Metrodome.

That one win is worth talking about. In case you missed it, the Twins beat the White Sox 20-1 yesterday. No, that's not a typo. The Twins scored 20 runs on 20 hits. And in one of those little statistical oddities, yesterday's outburst meant that even though the Twins lost 6 0f 7 on the road, they actually outscored their opponents over the course of those 7 games.

I hate to keep singling him out, but Joe Mauer has been nothing short of sensational. He went 3 for 4 yesterday, with a homer (of the Grand Slam variety), 2 runs scored and 6 RBI. He's in the midst of a 14 game hitting streak. For the season now, he's hitting .417 with 8 homers and 24 RBI.

Furthermore, he's one homer away from tying his season total from last year, and is well over a quarter of the way to tying his RBI total... and he missed the entire month of April! I've been contemplating that fact since yesterday and still can't quite get my head around it. I've asked several people if there's ever been a player to miss the first month of the season and wind up winning the MVP. No one could think of any, but they universally agree that Mauer's on pace to do just that.

Look at the numbers: .417 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, .819 slugging percentage and 1.319 OPS! Those are sick, sick, sick numbers. I can't reasonably expect him to keep up that pace, but as talented as this guy is, who knows where he'll wind up?!

Let me just say it plainly. Right now, if you took a snap-shot of this moment in the season, Joe Mauer's the best player in baseball.

I know that sounds like hyperbole, but think about it. He plays arguably the most important position on the field. A position where defense is so key that teams will often allow their catcher to be sub-par offensively, so long as he's rock solid defensively. And I dare you to name a better defensive catcher in the league right now. Offensively, he's put up eye-popping numbers since his return. And if there was one weakness in his game, it was his lack of power. Well he's still hitting for average, and in the 3 weeks since his return, he's already moved into second place on the team for round-trippers.

Look, by the end of the season, will I be able to say he's the best player in the game? Maybe not. But right now, if you had to start a team with one player, is there anybody who brings more to the table than Baby Jesus?

(And quite frankly, if he keeps going this way, don't we have to promote him to Adult Jesus?)

The Twins' reward for their 20-run outburst yesterday? Hosting the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers for 3 over the weekend. Milwaukee's 26-15, having won 8 of their last 10. I said at the beginning of the year that I expected the Crew to take a step backwards because of their pitching. Instead, the pitching's outperformed anyone's expectations and the Crew are leading the NL Central by 2 games over the almost-as-surprising Cardinals.

Thankfully for the Twins, they miss Milwaukee Ace Yovanni Gallardo who pitched Wednesday night and will take the hill again on Monday. Tonight, Kevin Slowey (5-1, 4.50) assumes the mound for the Twins, squaring off against Manny Parra (3-4, 4.57). Tomorrow, it's Anthony Swarzak making his MLB debut for Minnesota versus Braden Looper (4-2, 4.26). And the finale on Sunday will be contested between Scott Baker (1-5, 6.98) and Dave Bush (3-0, 3.74). And that one's on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, so you can all tune in and catch the goodness!

After the conclusion of the first round of the "War on 94", the Twins host the Boston Red Sox (whom I hate) for four games. That's the Memorial Day tilt I was talking about attending. Let's just say it'll either be the most celebratory RGC ever, or the most depressing. Either way, it ought to be damned entertaining!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 17-24, in 4th place in the NL West, and 11.5 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

I think the most remarkable thing about those numbers is that Colorado's actually worse! It's only a half-game mind you, but still!

Arizona's actually managed to go 5-5 in their last 10. Though when you're this far back, how good is "treading water" really? They've also managed to win 2 in a row in Miami. Which is no small feat, given the wildly varying weather conditions they've been subject to.

By the way, did anybody see those games? Or even highlights? Did you see all those empty seats at (I can't believe I'm going to type this) LandShark Stadium?! Jimmy Buffet Enterprises bought the naming rights to the stadium and named it after his LandShark Lager brand. I swear, I'm not making any of this up. Why he'd bother, I don't know, since it seems like there's nobody there to be marketed to. Thankfully the Marlins are getting a new ballpark. At least that way, if nobody shows, we don't have to have our retinas burned out by those neon orange empty seats.

But I digress...

The Snakes are still having all kinds of problems scoring runs (they're a -25 in run differential), but their pitching's hanging on to "middle-of-the-pack" numbers. Unfortunately, they reside in the same division as the team which leads the league in pitching and has a +74 run differential. Add those factors together and you get yourself a tidy lil' 11.5-game deficit.

Look, winning the division is all but out the window. At this point, Arizona's main focus has to be righting the ship. Things have clearly gone in the tank, and firing manager Bob Melvin hasn't done a whole lot to turn things around. That doesn't mean it was a bad idea. But whatever new manager A.J. Hinch's "vision" for the team is, it's going to take a while to achieve it.

I've talked in the past about the D'backs getting back to basics. And I still think that's the best way to turn things around. Forget about wins and losses for now (and looking at that record, why wouldn't you?), and use each game as an opportunity to work on things. Playing better defense, sacrificing to move runners over, hitting the other way to get them in. These are the traits that ultimately lead to winning baseball games. Focus on the small stuff, do that right, and do that right repeatedly, and the wins will come.

There's still a lot of baseball left to be played. And that means a lot of opportunities to start playing better baseball.

Tonight the Snakes start a 3-game inter-league series with the Oakland A's (oof, is there anyone east of the Rockies who'll be watching this series?!). After that Arizona finally returns home, facing the Padres for 3 starting Monday. These are winnable games D'backs fans. Let's hope the boys put a positive streak together!

(Wow, so that's how optimism feels?)

That's all for today. Like I said, probably no column on Monday. But I'll be back on Wednesday for sure, hopefully with a RGC for you!

Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I have a question. The DBacks are playing the Oakland Athletics as I write this. I notice that the Athletics wear an elephant balancing on a ball on their uniform sleeve. What does an elephant have to do with the Athletics????